“ Listening Length: 54 minutes / Publisher: Falcon Picture Group / Release Date: 7 Jan 2011 „
"Martin Lombard Senescu, a gentle man, the dedicated curator of Murderer's Row in Ferguson's Wax Museum. He ponders the reasons why ordinary men are driven to commit mass murder. What Mr Senescu does not know is that the groundwork has already been laid for his own special kind of madness and torment - found only in the Twilight Zone." The New Exhibit is a 2011 radio drama based on a Twilight Zone episode of the same name from 1963 written by Charles Beaumont and Jerry Sohl. The meek Martin Senescu (voiced by JoBe Cerny) is the enthusiastic guide and curator at Ferguson's Wax Museum. Martin's main responsibility resides in his favourite part of the museum. The rather spooky and peculiar Murderer's Row exhibition - where wax facsimiles of Jack the Ripper, Albert W Hicks, Henri "Bluebeard" Landru, and Hare and Burke are housed. Martin loves taking the public on a tour of this part of the museum and has been regaling them with macabre tales of these infamous figures for thirty years. However, he is absolutely devastated when he learns that his beloved museum is to be demolished to make way for a supermarket (I hope it was an upmarket one at least) and that his wax museum duties and serial killer anecdotes are therefore coming to an end. Martin can't bear the thought of the Murderer's Row waxworks being destroyed and asks his boss for permission to take them home himself in the hope that one day he can open his own wax museum and put them on display again. I'm not sure I'd want Jack the Ripper in the cellar. That would put you off going down to the freezer to get the Quorn burgers and potato waffles. Anyway, Martin's dream of opening his own museum is not going to happen any time soon so he now has to house these uncanny waxworks in the basement of his house and they require very precise temperature settings.
The air conditioning bill is soon bankrupting Martin and his wife and brother-in-law decide that his mad waxwork obsession has to end. The waxworks will have to go. But Martin has been secretly talking to the waxworks as if they are alive and anyone who tries to tamper with the air conditioning or investigate Martin's basement seems to end up dead. Are the waxworks coming to life and bumping people off or has Martin gone completely doolally? These Twilight Zone radio dramas are pretty solid on the whole and have been very successful in the United States where they are syndicated and licenced by CBS and the Rod Serling estate. The format is that Stacey Keach does the framing duties (so famously and iconically performed by Serling in the television series) and then each week there is a different famous guest star narrating the story. Jane Seymour, Jason Alexander, Jim Caviezel, Adam West, Fred Willard etc. This particular story is narrated by one of the few people in this series I've never heard of so far. I did look up JoBe Cerny though and it turns out he's the voice of the Pillsbury Doughboy. I have absolutely no idea what that means except that he's obviously more of a voiceover artist than an actor. His performance is perfectly fine anyway and he conveys a nervous quality that is very appropriate both for the character of Martin Senescu and the very strange situation he will be thrown into. Martin Balsam was better in the television version but it would be very unfair to compare the two.
Cerny sounds a lot like Richard Dreyfuss I think, which is no bad thing unless you find Richard Dreyfuss annoying. They probably could have got the real Richard Dreyfuss as I haven't seen him in anything lately. This story was originally adapted for the fourth series of the classic sixties Twilight Zone - the fourth series the only one in the five year history of the Twilight Zone to run for an hour instead of the usual twenty-five minute episodes. Consequently this is much longer than most of the radio dramas in this series and clocks in at fifty-four minutes. Does it sustain itself over the longer running time? It probably does and the spooky nature of the story is well suited to radio, a place where a sense of atmosphere and one's own imagination can make make for a potent combination. It's a shame we can't see the Jack the Ripper, Albert W Hicks, Henri "Bluebeard" Landru, and Hare and Burke wax figures as we did in the television incarnation but we can picture them all the same, casting a strange spell over Martin. Are they coming alive to sate their bloodthirsty tendencies or is Martin responsible for the murders and so insane he thinks the waxworks are doing it? There is a bit of ambiguity here (slightly more so than in the television version) and that's a big part of the fun. What I like about these radio dramas too is that despite a few nods towards technology and a vague sense that they are updating them they still feel totally anachronistic.
The story is very underrated I feel and one of the Twilight Zone's purest forays into the horror genre. It isn't too highly regarded and has been criticised for plot holes but I've never quite understood why it isn't held in higher regard myself. A man with a cellar full of historical serial killer waxworks who may or may not be murdering the people who visit his house. What's not to like? The story can best be described as a more tongue-in-cheek Psycho. The contrivances and weaknesses don't diminish the essential fun of the story and are probably understandable anyway as the great Charles Beaumont was (sadly) increasingly suffering from ill health when he conceived this and contracting his screenplays out to be finished by others - in this case Jerry Sohl. A slight lack of clarity is therefore apparent but The New Exhibit is still a great little story. Very Amicus compendium film I think. Martin's love for the figures is probably the creepiest thing of all and his increasingly desperate efforts to protect them supply the drama and give the story impetus and a certain amount of intrigue. The music cues are nicely restrained here, adding background atmosphere but never overegging the production. They do create an aura that feels like a blood relative to the source material.
The New Exhibit doesn't work as well on radio as Twilight Zone stories like The Thirty-Fathom Grave and The Odyssey of Flight 33 but I did enjoy listening to it and thought it was generally well done. You can buy The New Exhibit as part of a Twilight Zone audio CD collection or (at the time of writing) download it individually for £1.19. It's worth looking up the homepage for this radio series too as they have some free samples to give you a taster. You should definitely make sure you've watched the television versions of these first though.